Over-Production of Adrenaline Linked to Stress-Related Illnesses in Adults and Children
Even before man had a name for the bodily chemical known as adrenaline, we have trusted it to help us take action in stressful situations. The “fight or flight” mechanism spurred by adrenaline and used by primitive man for survival is still part of modern life, helping people at sports, social situations or interviews. However, for some children and adults, too much adrenaline is produced and stored in the body, potentially causing health problems, premature aging and the life-disrupting conditions of hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder.
Meant to help us survive in a potential emergency, adrenaline (medically known as epinephrine) is a hormone released into the blood during a time of stress, anger or fear. It is produced by the adrenal gland and sometimes given medically as an injection for cases of extreme allergic reaction.
Today, people rarely experience the extreme physical threats that would have warranted a surge of adrenaline for early man. Instead, most people regularly produce adrenaline in response to stress at home and work – situations that typically are not life-threatening. Therefore, higher than needed amounts of adrenaline can be stored in the body. Because the stress hormones are often underutilized and the stress can continue over a period of time, the child or adult remains on a state of high alert.
Adrenaline surges are meant to upset the normal body balance, but also to be used up in the bloodstream quickly. When a person is threatened, either from real or perceived threats, adrenaline causes dilation of the blood vessels and airways, a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure. Bursts of energy and more oxygen in the body allow for quick and efficient reactions. Along with adrenalin, norepinephrine and cortisol are also released to help the body function in reactive mode.
Adrenaline stored up in the bloodstream becomes more harmful than helpful. Insomnia, nervousness and lowered immunity toward illness are all connected to high levels of stress in the body. Children and adults with over-production of adrenaline often exhibit traits of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Kids may show a high level of reaction to every noise, fidgeting, excessive talking and erratic sleep patterns. Classroom learning abilities are affected. It is believed some children have higher than normal amounts of adrenaline if early reflexes such as the Moro (startle reflex) don’t fade away soon after 12 months of age.
For adults, ADD symptoms include over-reaction in social situations, higher than normal levels of anxiety or perfectionist and workaholic tendencies. The chemicals produced by stress also speed up aging. People with high stress responses live in hormonal imbalance, and therefore have damaged collagen production and a reduced ability to repair cells. These signals may be written in facial lines or the look of a “hard life.”
Still, adrenaline can provide a healthy surge of energy for sports or exercise, which helps aid in the release of stress and tension. Deep breathing and regular exercise can help regulate hormone levels and keep them at healthy levels. Indoor lighting that doesn’t flicker and careful selection of television and computer screens can also help minimize a person’s stress response. Effective stress management tools may be the key to coping with higher than needed levels of adrenaline and reducing illnesses related to stress.